Category: Lawn & Garden

Bob Vila Radio: Give Your Mower a Tune-Up

It doesn't take much to keep your lawn mower in top condition, and it's well worth the effort. With proper maintenance, you can safeguard peak performance and extend the useful lifespan of your equipment.

With the summer season nearing its peak, chances are that your lawn mower would benefit from a bit of mid-season TLC.

Lawn Mower Care Tips


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Listen to BOB VILA ON LAWN MOWER CARE or read the text below:

Start by giving it a good rinse with your hose. To reach the underside of the deck, consider using a long-handled hose attachment. That way, you can clean the area around the blade without needing to tip the mower more than a few inches onto its side.

Also, remember that lawn mower engines live on gasoline and air. If yours came with a paper filter, check whether it’s clogged. If so, swap in a new paper filter in the appropriate size. If your mower features a foam air filter, wash it out with soapy water and, before reinstalling, give the dry foam a light coating of oil.

You may also want to change the spark plug or sharpen the blade. Now, your mower ought to be ready for the remainder of the summer’s dog days.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Genius! Make a Mini Greenhouse with Dollar-Store Photo Frames

Looking for a way to bring your limp houseplants back to life? Try this dollar-store DIY to get your greenery back in shape.

DIY Indoor Greenhouse


Sure, your indoor plants might be doing just fine on their own with your current watering schedule and carefully selected locations. But what if we told you that they could be doing better—in, say, their own custom-built greenhouse? An indoor greenhouse isn’t just for show, although it does pack plenty of style into its tiny structure. For starters, it keeps temperatures stable, boosts humidity, and increases carbon dioxide levels inside the enclosure for quicker-growing plants. Sheltering your greenery also keeps pests out and reduces the risk of disease. A simple glass box creates an optimal environment for your plants, guaranteed to take your gardening game to the next level. And with this idea from The Wicker House, making your own requires just a trip to the dollar store and a little creative repurposing. This blogger’s smart substitute for glass window panes? Emptied photo frames.

That’s right: To create her indoor garden, she picked up a total of eight picture frames and removed the backs, cardboard padding, and any prints inside them. While there are some things you probably shouldn’t ever buy at the dollar store—fresh produce, pregnancy tests, and hair gel, for instance—it turns out that it can be the perfect source for basic DIY supplies. Cheap, lightweight frames work best here so that they can be assembled with only hot glue and some duct tape. The resourceful crafter selected two 8″ x 10″ frames for the sides of the greenhouse, two 5″ x 7″ frames for the ends, and four 4″ x 6″ ones to create the slanted roof, all spray-painted white to visually unify the mismatched collection. The end result: a cheap yet chic tabletop structure that offers the consistent environment houseplants need to truly thrive. Follow The Wicker House’s full tutorial, and you may be surprised at just how quickly your plants put down roots—and settle in for the long term.

FOR MORE: The Wicker House

DIY Indoor Greenhouse - Painted Frames


Are You Spending Way Too Much to Operate Your Swimming Pool?

This summer, take a serious look at the cost of operating and maintaining your pool. You may find that a pump upgrade could provide as much relief to your wallet as your pool provides to your family's comfort and happiness.


For those who are lucky enough to own a swimming pool, this is the best time of year. But as you soak in the sun, your pool’s impact on your household budget may be more than you bargained for. The alarming fact is that if you have a conventional pool pump, you are very likely paying too much—much too much—in monthly operating costs.

Data shows that in homes with pools, the pump typically ranks only behind heating and cooling in terms of overall energy consumption. You’ve probably noticed that your energy bills rise during those months when your family enjoys the pool. What you may not have realized is that in a given year those costs add up to $460, on average. Well, that figure might make anyone consider cutting their losses, but don’t drain the pool just yet! According to ENERGY STAR, the solution is simple. Ditch the outmoded pump and replace it with a high-efficiency model. ENERGY STAR pool pumps are independently certified to save energy and money – they typically use about 70 percent less energy, saving the average household between $280 and $340 annually.

“Replacing your old pool pump with one that has earned the ENERGY STAR has obvious financial benefits for families across the country,” says ENERGY STAR Labeling Branch Chief Ann Bailey. “But it also has a big-picture impact for the environment. If all pool pumps sold in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR certified, the energy cost savings would grow to about $165 million each year, and three billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions from nearly 280,000 vehicles.”


Why do conventional pool pumps waste so much energy? The answer is simple: They run at only one speed. That wouldn’t be a problem if pool pumps performed only one role, but standard setups put the pump in charge of multiple functions, each of which calls for a different flow rate. For instance, filtration can often be accomplished with half the flow rate needed for vacuuming. Though the different functions have different requirements, a single-speed pump would apply the same flow rate in both cases. For vacuuming, the flow rate would probably be appropriate, but for filtration, it would definitely be overkill—expensive overkill. That’s why only those pumps that run at two or more speeds earn the ENERGY STAR. With these newer and more sophisticated pumps, you can be sure that the pump always responds with just enough—but not more than enough—power to accomplish the desired function. After installing a variable-speed pool pump, you shouldn’t notice a difference in water clarity, but when you open your utility bill at the end of the month, you should notice what a big difference a little energy efficiency makes.

Even in today’s energy-conscious world, many pool contractors do not assume the homeowner wants a variable-speed pump — which cost roughly $550 more than their single-speed cousins. While it’s certainly true that high-efficiency pool pumps aren’t cheap, an ENERGY STAR-certified unit can pay for its additional upfront cost in less than two years. From that point on, for the lifespan of the product, savings go right into your pocket on average. Tom Cucinotta, owner of Cucinotta’s Pool Service in Boynton Beach, Florida, regularly installs variable-speed pumps and attests to their return on customer investment. “Here in Florida, energy costs are approximately 15 cents per kilowatt hour. If your pumps run on 1-1/2-horsepower, 10 hours a day, it’s going to cost about $1,232 a year. With a variable-speed pump cutting as much as 91 percent off that energy bill, it would cost about $125 a year. Huge savings.” Cucinotta also points out that if you have two conventional pumps, both single-speed, you can replace both with just one variable-speed unit.

Pool pump lifespans range pretty widely, as a number of variables come into play. But eventually, any pool pump must be replaced. Of course, if the unit doesn’t start, that’s obviously a problem—but there are much subtler signs that you need a new pool pump. For instance, if the unit hums, buzzes, or otherwise makes a racket, repair or replacement may be in order. You might also notice the pump starting slowly and operating at low power. Another bad sign is for the pump to get hot and shut down. In any of these situations, the time might be right for an upgrade to a variable-speed, ENERGY STAR-certified pump. Your local home center or pool supply store probably stocks a range of efficient options from leading manufacturers Pentair, Hayward, and Jandy. In stores and online, you can also find models made by Blue Torrent Pool Products, Speck Pumps, and Waterway. No matter your chosen product, it’s well worth mentioning that if you install a high-efficiency pump, you may be eligible for state or local utility rebates. To view the available incentives, check out the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder.

In Cucinotta’s experience, “a variable-speed pump saves money every time,” but he points out that there are indeed additional ways to minimize pool maintenance and operation costs. A pool cover, for instance, helps reduce nighttime heat loss, which would mean lower costs if you run a pool heater. Meanwhile, keeping the intake grates and drains clear of debris also goes a long way toward benefiting overall system performance. But if your monthly pool costs really seem to have spun out of control, don’t hesitate to investigate the cause or causes. “I urge homeowners to do an energy audit on their pool,” says Cucinotta. Since upgrading to an ENERGY STAR-certified pump may already require a visit from a pool specialist, consider inviting yours to suggest additional tweaks to your system—a different filter perhaps, or a programmable pump timer. But,in the end, replacing a single-speed pump is likely to make the biggest difference of all. As Cucinotta sums up, “Many people with older pool pumps are just tossing money away.” Want more information? Visit ENERGY STAR today.


This post has been brought to you by ENERGY STAR. Its facts and opinions are those of

Bob Vila Radio: The Easiest Way to Fertilize Trees and Shrubs

Compared to other, more demanding fertilizer applications, fertilizer spikes offer a quick and easy, no-hassle method of providing trees and shrubs with the nutrients they need to thrive. Here's what you need to know.

Looking to give your trees and shrubs a nutritional boost? If so, consider fertilizer spikes. Filled with vital nutrients, these solid, spike-shaped plugs are hammered into the ground, supplying gradual-release feeding for up to several months.

Fertilizer Spikes


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Listen to BOB VILA ON FERTILIZER SPIKES or read the text below:

You’ll find many different fertilizer spikes on the shelves of your local home center. While some are general purpose, others are formulated to benefit a specific variety, be it fruit trees, deciduous trees, evergreens, palms or even vegetables.

It’s usually best to place fertilizer spikes when the ground is moist and soft, typically during spring and fall. In colder weather, when the soil is dry and hard, water the ground thoroughly to make the going a little easier.

Note that fertilizer spikes come with a special plastic cap. Place the cap over the top of a spike to make sure that it remains intact as you hammer it into the ground, usually to a point just below the surface.

Generally speaking, fertilizer spikes are positioned in a circle around the tree or shrub, at a remove of several feet from its trunk or main stems, respectively. For instructions specific to your chosen fertilizer spikes, see their packaging or included manual.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

DIY Kids: Make a Garden Stepping Stone

Make and decorate stepping stones with the whole family for a garden accessory that's extra personal. Craft enough of them, and you can build yourself—quite literally—memory lane!

DIY Stepping Stones - Craft with Kids


Whether you’re looking for a way to personalize the lawn and garden with mementos from the kids or you’re on the hunt for memorable presents for the grandparents, look no further than a bag of cement mix. Seriously! You probably have most of the other materials on hand at home already to make these stone- and seashell-dappled stepping stones. Gather the whole family for this craft: These custom pavers are fun for all ages, and easy enough to make and decorate in a weekend. The more the merrier—and the more stones for your new walkway!


This project is good for children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. For kids under 3, mix the cement by yourself and let them do the decorating. My 5-year-old was capable of pouring water into the mix and spreading the cement. Kids ages 10 and up can help mix, and may be able to complete the whole project themselves with supervision.

- Plastic tarp
- Large board (optional)
- Pizza box
- Duct tape
- Hardware cloth or chicken wire (optional)
- Scissors
- Plastic garbage bag
- Eye protection
- Dust mask
- Gloves
- Quick-setting cement
- Water
- 5-gallon bucket
- Trowel
- Embellishments (sea shells, marbles, etc.)



DIY Stepping Stones - Materials


Set up shop in a well-ventilated area, and protect the floors with a tarp, drop cloth, or old sheet. If you have it, lay out a board that’s larger than the pizza box to serve as your work surface—it’ll make lifting the project much simpler later on when the box is filled with cement.



DIY Stepping Stones - Step 1


Cut the top cover off the pizza box, and restructure the bottom half so that any tabs or flaps folded along the inside of the box move to the outside. When you’re finished, the inside of your mold should be completely smooth. Wrap the sides with duct tape for added support.

If you’d like to use hardware cloth or chicken wire as a reinforcement, cut a piece of the material an inch or so smaller than your pizza box and set it aside for when it’s time to drop it into the mixed cement. Using wire mesh as reinforcement will help strengthen the stone so that it’s less likely to crack down the road, but it’s not absolutely necessary.



DIY Stepping Stones - Step 2


Cut a black garbage bag down the sides and open it up. Then, cut it in half to make a liner for your cardboard mold. Lay the liner into the pizza box, and smooth it out across the bottom and up the sides.



DIY Stepping Stones - Step 3


First, have everybody put on dust masks, eye protection, and gloves. Cement mix is very dusty, and you really don’t want to inhale any of it or get it in your eyes.

Then, pour a quarter of an 80-pound bag of quick-setting cement mix into a 5-gallon bucket. Pour in 2 cups of water, and mix with a garden trowel. You’ll want to get the mixture to the consistency of something like banana bread batter: thick, but still easily spreadable. Add more cement mix if the batch is too liquid, or more water if it’s too dry—a little at a time until you reach the right consistency. Once the cement is mixed, pour it into the pizza box until it’s half full, and spread it to the edges. Jiggle the box (via the board, if you used one) to help the mix settle and get the air bubbles out.



DIY Stepping Stones - Step 4


If you’re using it, place your hardware cloth or chicken wire reinforcement onto the cement and squish it into the mix. Jiggle the box a little more to work out bubbles. Then, mix another batch of cement (exactly as in Step 4) to pour on top and complete the stone. Again, spread it evenly corner to corner, and work the bubbles out by jiggling the box.



DIY Stepping Stone - Step 5


Now for the fun part! You can remove your dust mask and eye protection, and just leave on the gloves. Lightly press shells, rocks, marbles, or any other embellishments you’d like into the setting cement. Since we live by the beach, we used shells and stones, but the decorative elements can be whatever treasures you’ve collected lately.



DIY Stepping Stones - Completed Project


Let the stepping stone sit undisturbed for at least 24 hours to let it cure. Then, carefully turn the stone over and remove the box from the bottom of the stepping stone. Peel the garbage bag liner off and voilà! It will be hard for the kids to wait, but it’s best to let the stepping stone cure outside the box for another 24 hours before walking on it. After that, place your stepping stone in your garden or yard where it’s sure to get plenty of use. You’ll have good memories of the fun you had working together every time you set foot on it.

DIY Lite: A Wooden Bench That Anyone Can Build

Start this brag-worthy backyard bench one afternoon, and you'll be sitting on it roasting marshmallows before sunset. Trust us: This DIY is so simple, even a beginning woodworker can tackle it!

DIY Outdoor Bench - Backyard View

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

As summer approaches, the growing number of sunny hours each day means that we have more time to spend out in the yard. Outdoor attractions abound: coffee on the porch at sunrise, afternoons filled with family barbecues and backyard games, and long evenings around the fire pit roasting s’mores. But to enjoy any of these pastimes, you’ll need ample outdoor seating. Rather than buying a few flimsy chairs from the nearest big-box store, consider crafting additional seats on your own. All it takes is some lumber and basic woodworking knowledge—don’t worry, we’ll guide you through—and you’ll get bragging rights for seasons to come whenever someone compliments your sturdy bench.


DIY Outdoor Bench - Tools and Materials

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

- 20 feet of 2″ x 2″ lumber (purchased in 10-foot pieces)
- 16 feet of 1″ x 2″ lumber (purchased in 8-foot pieces)
- 16 feet of 1″ x 3 7⁄8″ lumber (purchased in 8-foot pieces)
- 8 feet of 1″ x 6″ lumber (purchased as an 8-foot piece)
- Handsaw
- Wood glue
- 24 2 1/2-inch screws
- 24 1-inch screws
- 4 5″ x 5″ metal brackets
- Drill
- 1 1/2-inch nails
- Hammer
- Sandpaper
- Three colors of wood stain
- Brush
- Varnish



DIY Outdoor Bench - Lumber Cuts

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Round up your lumber, then start by cutting the two 10-foot pieces of 2″ x 2″ lumber into shorter lengths that you will use to build the bench’s structure. Optimize your cuts by sawing each 10-foot length into six pieces: one 39-inch length, two 15-inch lengths, and three 11-inch lengths.



DIY Outdoor Bench - Seat

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

To make the bench seat, lay the two 39-inch pieces out horizontally and put the four 11-inch lengths into place perpendicularly—one inside either end and two evenly spaced out in the middle. There should be approximately 10 2/3 inches between each crosspiece.

Starting with the bottom right corner, apply wood glue to the ends you’re bringing together. Then, use two 2 1/2-inch screws to connect the pieces at each meeting point. Tip: To make the screwing easier, use a drill with a thin bit.



DIY Outdoor Bench - Complete Seat Frame

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Continue to glue and then screw in the four 11-inch pieces along the bottom 39-inch length, following the directions in Step 3. Repeat to attach them to the opposite length. As you screw each piece into place, check that you’re keeping the structure relatively straight.



DIY Outdoor Bench - Begin Legs

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Set this piece—the bench seat frame—aside while you work on the frames for the two bench legs. For each, you’ll need two 15-inch lengths of wood and one 11-inch piece to connect them at the bottom. Assemble the pieces with glue and two screws at each joint (as you did in Step 3) to form two U-shaped frames.



DIY Outdoor Bench - Continue Legs

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, attach the legs to the bench seat frame using the four brackets. Place each leg so that the open side of the U shape connects to an end of the seat frame. Place a bracket at each corner where the 39-inch side of the bench seat meets the 15-inch leg frame, and use 1-inch screws to attach.



DIY Outdoor Bench - Rough Frame

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Congratulations! The bench structure is finished. Flip it over so it’s standing, and admire your handiwork for a few minutes before starting on the cover. To create the rustic design shown above, cut the all the rest of your lumber into 15-inch-long slats, which will yield 12 pieces of 1″ x 2″, 12 pieces of 1″ x 3 7⁄8″, and six pieces of 1″ x 6″.



DIY Outdoor Bench - Stained Parts

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand the entire bench structure and all the wooden slats, then stain them. Choose three complementary colors of wood stain to provide a more modern finish—you can pick any shades you like. We stained the structure and the 1″ x 2″ slats in Chocolate, the 1″ x 3 7⁄8″ slats in Mahogany, and the 1″ x 6″ slats in Early American.



DIY Outdoor Bench - Finishing Work

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

With three widths of slats in varying colors, you have plenty of options for creating a pattern. You can (and should) try out different sequences before nailing the slats in place.

When you find your favorite combination, glue and then nail the slats along the bench structure. (Tip: One nail at each end should be enough to secure the 2-inch-wide slats; for the rest, put a nail at each corner.) Start on the left side, work your way across the seat, and finish with the right side. Depending on your pattern of choice, you’ll probably have a few slats left over.



DIY Outdoor Bench - Slat Top

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The widths of the slats will most likely not add up exactly to the 39-inch length of the structure—and that’s OK! If that happens, just cut the last slat to fit, and restain the sawed-off end. No one will be the wiser.



DIY Outdoor Bench - Sealing Seat

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, varnish the bench. Because it’s a piece of furniture intended for the outdoors, give it at least two coats for lasting protection from the elements. Follow the directions on the can of varnish closely, especially when it comes to dry time: You don’t want to sit on your handcrafted beauty before time is up, lest you leave a seat print behind—or worse, get varnish on your clothes!

When dry time is up, we highly recommend moving your bench to the sunniest patch on your property to test it out. Bring a refreshment and some summer reading with you—you’ll surely want to stay there a while.


DIY Outdoor Bench - In Situ Completed

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila


Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.

Genius! DIY a Custom, Collapsible Sunshade

No air conditioner? Don't despair! This easy-to-make DIY sunshade will help cool off your next backyard barbecue and beyond. Use it to keep comfortable all season long—without running up your electric bill.

DIY Sun Shade - Collapsible Awning


Some days, hanging out under an awning is the closest we can get to enjoying the breeze underneath a shady beach umbrella. The relief is real: That soft wind you feel in the shade can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the temperature out in direct sunlight! Well, you’ll be happy to know that squeezing some shade into your own backyard just got easier. Whether your outdoor space consists of a patch of grass around the side of the apartment or a full-fledged suburban backyard, you can craft a tented oasis, using just a single set of instructions. This DIY sunshade on Design*Sponge can be tailored to cool off nearly any space.

The premise is simple and easily convertible. Create two sturdy supports for the base of the structure by sticking dowels into two plastic buckets filled with quick-setting concrete. As the concrete hardens, you can decide how far apart you’d like to position the supports; this will determine the width of your awning and, ultimately, how much fabric you’ll need for your shade. Four tiny cup hooks—two screwed into the top of the dowels and two along a nearby exterior wall—will serve to catch grommets that you’ll add to the four corners of your shade to hold it in place. Then, whenever you’re ready to cool off outside, simply set up your two poles a few feet in front of the wall and hook the shade into position. Warning: If you dress it up just right with an eye-catching fabric, you may make your neighbors insanely jealous. For best results, mix up a margarita and camp out in your favorite folding chair for the afternoon.

FOR MORE: Design*Sponge

DIY Sunshade - Concrete Base


How To: Pour a Concrete Patio

Done right, a concrete patio can be an attractive addition to your property that's long-lasting, versatile, and economical—particularly if you pour it yourself!

DIY Concrete Patio


Whether rectangular or curvy in design, next to the home or freestanding in the yard, a concrete patio establishes new living space outdoors and adds a striking feature to the landscape. Of all the commonly used patio building materials, concrete ranks as one of the most durable and versatile. It’s affordable, too, not least because an ambitious, capable do-it-yourselfer can handle the project himself, saving the considerable cost of a contractor. If you’ve worked with concrete before and feel ready to tackle a larger, more complex project, you can—with proper planning, the right materials, and the necessary tools—achieve a long-lasting, eye-catching result. To help you succeed with minimal hassle, QUIKRETE® offers these detailed guidelines.

Before you begin, survey the location you’ve chosen for your DIY concrete patio. If the ground here isn’t level, you may need to regrade the site, with or without the help of an excavator. Even if there’s no plainly visible, dramatic slope and the terrain looks level, it’s best not to trust your naked eye. Rather, drive stakes around the project area, attaching mason’s strings between each one. Using a line level, make sure the string runs at a consistent height. Next, measure from the string to the ground at each stake. Compare the line-to-ground measurements of any two stakes, dividing the difference (in inches) by the distance between the two stakes (in feet). If you get a calculated slope greater than one inch per foot, then you’ve got some grading work ahead of you.




- QUIKRETE® Concrete Mix or QUIKRETE® Crack-Resistant Concrete Mix
- Grade stakes
- Mason’s string
- Line level
- Tape measure
- Square-end spade
- QUIKRETE® All-Purpose Gravel
- Tamper
- 2×4 lumber
- Circular saw
- Level
- Power drill
- 3” screws
- Vegetable oil or release agent
- Wheelbarrow
- Stiff-bristled broom
- Concrete finishing tools
- QUIKRETE® Acrylic Cure & Seal



DIY Concrete Patio - Layout


Using either rope or a garden hose, delineate a rough outline for the planned patio. Next, drive in stakes in alignment with, but sitting about a foot outside, each corner of the rough layout. Once you have done so, run mason’s strings between the stakes; where possible, use two stakes set back about a foot from each corner so that the perpendicularly running strings will intersect at the true corners of the project area. Now it’s time to square the staked-out area. To do so, use what’s known as the 3-4-5 triangle method. From any corner, measure and mark a point three feet out along one string, four feet out along the other. Measure between the two points. Is the distance precisely five feet? If not, adjust the position of the strings, resetting the stakes if necessary, until the points are, indeed, five feet apart. Follow the same approach in each corner of the project area. Finally, use a line level to ensure that the mason’s strings run at a consistent level.



DIY Concrete Patio - Excavation


To keep water from pooling on the patio surface—or worse, flooding your basement—give your patio a slight, rain-shedding slope. At this stage, setting the slope means angling the mason’s strings. Follow the two strings running away from the house to the stakes where they’re tied. Because the standard slope is 1/8 inch per foot, multiply the planned length of the patio’s side (in feet) by 1/8. Whatever you get, that’s how far down to move the strings. Finished? OK: The most laborious part of the process begins now. Your goal is to excavate the project area—and six inches around it—to a depth of six inches below the mason’s strings. For all but the most forgiving soil, a square-end spade may be your best bet. Good luck! Upon completing the excavation, add in a layer of QUIKRETE® All-Purpose Gravel to provide a level, stable foundation. Pour the gravel to a thickness of about five inches, then use a tamper to compress it to four inches.



DIY Concrete Patio - Formwork


Whereas it takes brawn to complete the site excavation, it takes finesse to construct the form—that is, the wood frame that needs to be built to contain the poured concrete, establish its height, and determine its shape. Begin by positioning 2×4 boards onto the gravel along the perimeter of the project area, using the mason’s strings as a reference. Because the inside dimensions of the form must equal the total size of the project area, set the boards so that their inside edges hit directly below the strings. Then, every three feet along the outside edges of the form boards, drive in a foot-long stake cut from your stock of 2×4′s. To fasten the stakes to the boards, drill three-inch deck screws through the one and into the other. Finally, after leveling the form boards, screw them all together to finish. To prevent the concrete from bonding with the wood, coat the form with either vegetable oil or a commercial release agent.



DIY Concrete Patio - Pouring & Finishing


Proceed to mix and pour the concrete in evenly placed mounds. From there, distribute the concrete over the project area by means of a hoe, then level out the concrete with a screed board—here, simply a 2×4. Advance the screed in a sawing motion, removing the excess concrete in front of the board and using it to fill any dips behind it. Once the concrete has lost its sheen, go over it with a wood float, using arcing motions to smooth the surface. After that, finish the conrete with a stiff-bristled broom to make the surface nonslip. Now, as a next-to-last step, allow for seasonal expansion and contraction by using a groover and straightedge to put in control joints. Control joints should be cut to a quarter of the slab depth and added at least every 10 feet in each direction. Finally, apply QUIKRETE® Acrylic Concrete Cure & Seal, not only to eliminate the need for water-curing, but also to repel water and prevent stains.


Watch a video demonstration of concrete pouring, courtesy of QUIKRETE®!

For more even more details on pouring a patio, visit QUIKRETE® now!


This post has been brought to you byQUIKRETE® Its facts and opinions are those of

Lawn Mower Pit Stop: 5 Maintenance Musts

This summer, show your lawn mower some love, and let it reward your efforts with better performance and a longer life.

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips


Your lawn mower has more in common with a race car than you might think. To stay in top working order, both require that their hardworking parts be properly maintained on a regular basis. Just as Nascar drivers pull over for pit stops midcompetition, homeowners should take time for some lawn mower maintenance at least once during the season. If neglected, your mower might not make it to summer’s end. By following these simple tune-up tips, you can go a long way toward ensuring that your mower not only continues to function at peak level, but also remains a reliable performer for many summers to come.



Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - PivotPro Isolated


First things first: Mower maintenance must include a thorough cleaning. Spray down the plainly visible portions of your mower, but also, and more important, be sure to clean the underside of the deck. This is where the most dirt and grass clippings accumulate. Traditionally, cleaning the underside of a lawn mower always begins with the hassle of tipping the machine over onto its side—no easy feat, considering average equipment size and weight. Today, it’s all a lot easier—a lot less messy too—if you employ the HYDE PivotPro Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand. Named for its patented pivoting nozzle, this powerhouse cleaning tool attaches directly to your garden hose and sprays water at any angle along a radius of 135 degrees. Simply tilt up the mower, prop up its wheels, and slip the PivotPro nozzle underneath. Then, by adjusting the grip on the barrel of the PivotPro, aim the spray upward to blast crud off the mower blade and deck housing.

Has it been a while since you last cleaned your mower? If so, don’t hesitate to bring soap into the equation. Choose a mild detergent, and pour it right into the PivotPro mixing reservoir. Next, after setting your desired soap-to-water ratio, point the PivotPro and toggle the trigger to send a steady, soap-infused stream of cleansing water wherever you want it to go. For maximum cleaning power, scrub the mower at the same time as you’re spraying it down. PivotPro comes with a stiff-bristle brush that swings into action when you need it and out of the way when you don’t. For all its attachments, perhaps the best part about PivotPro is that, thanks to its 46-inch length and adjustable spray angle, you can easily get to all those hard-to-reach areas, attacking grit and grime from every side, all without having to bend, stretch, or stoop. For that reason and many more, cleaning the mower—and countless outdoor surfaces—couldn’t be easier, thanks to PivotPro.

Note: Before you begin cleaning your mower, cover up the air intake to keep it dry. Also, try to avoid spraying directly into any parts of the engine that are enclosed with steel mesh.


2. TOP UP 

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - Engine Oil


It would be overkill to check the oil level every time you mow the lawn, but when you’re tuning up the mower, it’s a good idea to top off the fill tube. Be careful not to add too much, though; excess oil can cause many of the same engine problems that too little oil does. If you’ve been operating the mower over rough and dusty terrain, be aware that such conditions sometimes degrade oil. Before adding any oil, therefore, it’s smart to inspect the color of the existing oil. If it’s dark, that means the oil has degraded and needs to be changed out. Different mower models drain oil in different ways; check your manual for specific instructions.



Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - Air Filter


Lawn mowers live not only on gasoline, but also on air. Therefore, it’s critical to address any clogs in the air filter. Left unchecked, a clogged air filter can kill a perfectly good engine. Fortunately, most air filters are easy to clear out. You can usually restore a paper filter to like-new condition by means of an air hose. Own a mower with a foam filter? Simply wash it under soapy water, then allow it to dry out completely. No matter what type of filter you’re dealing with, if you find that it’s damaged beyond repair, you can always purchase and install a new one. Just bring your old filter with you to the home center so you know what type to get.



Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - Spark Plugs


In the absence of a functional spark plug, the fuel you’re adding to your lawn mower might as well be pure water. So, as a general rule of thumb, whenever you change the oil, you should also change the spark plug. To do so, remove the wire attached to the existing spark plug, then use pliers or a wrench to remove the plug by turning it counterclockwise. Once it’s free, check the threaded part of the plug for grease or oil; if you see any, something may be amiss. Be smart and take your mower to a repair shop that specializes in small engine repair. Otherwise, swap in a new plug, aiming for a snug fit but making sure not to overtighten the component.



Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips - Blade


Mower blades take a serious beating from common, often hidden, landscape hazards like loose rocks and exposed roots. Unless you go out of your way to look at it, you probably wouldn’t notice a dull blade, but you can plainly see its effects. That’s because, rather than cleanly trim, a dull blade rips and shreds grass blades. This isn’t merely a problem of aesthetics—grass cut by a dull blade can be unusually susceptible to disease and pest problems. To protect the health of your lawn, have a local service shop sharpen your blade. Alternatively, tackle the job yourself: Remove the blade, clamp it in a vise, and repeatedly run a metal file along the edge.


If you keep your mower in top condition this summer, you’ll be able to spend more time enjoying your weekends and less time struggling with your lawn equipment. Take good care of your mower, and you can expect the machine to reward your efforts with peak performance and a longer lifespan.

This post has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of

Genius! Grow a Garden on a Curtain Rod

Want a garden, but don't have anywhere to put it? Find out how one apartment dweller made her own window oasis on the cheap!


“My mom once said she could only keep so many things alive at once,” writes Jill Kurtz, photographer, architect, and DIY blogger. “Thankfully, she chose her children over her plants!” When the time came to start her own garden, Jill knew she wanted to keep it simple. Limited space was a challenge, though, and so was the lack of a balcony or backyard. But the news wasn’t all bad: Her rental had 10-foot windows, so there was plenty of sunlight.

With a small budget and one very tall window to work with, Jill trekked to IKEA to make her own vertical garden. She decided on three different products: the ORE shower curtain rod, the FINTORP cutlery caddy, and stainless steel GRUNDTAL hooks. After spray-painting everything to match, she adjusted the tension rod to size and mounted it nearly 1 foot above the bottom of the window sash. Then, she repurposed the silverware caddies to hold seedlings and attached them to the rod with the hooks. The window fits four across comfortably, and she can continue to grow the garden higher by adding more rows, with the help of a stepladder and a few extra rods.

Jill planted herbs in her window garden, but you can choose whatever you like. Mount a single rod low on the frame or stack up several of them—just get started before the sun goes down!